Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst met with the media Thursday evening in Memorial Stadium to elaborate on a statement he released earlier that day saying the administartion "will do everything possible to maintain our tradition of playing games on the Friday after Thanksgiving."
The status of the traditional Black Friday game was called into question earlier this week with the release of the 2020 and 2021 Big Ten conference schedules. Nebraska was no longer scheduled to face Iowa in the last game of the regular season, as it has since joining the conference in 2011. Instead, the Huskers are scheduled to face Minnesota with both games, for now, scheduled for a Saturday.
Eichorst reiterated his commitment to maintain Nebraska's traditional post-Thanksgiving date and move those games to Friday.
"We will continue to do everything we can moving forward to make sure we preserve that tradition," he said. "As of yesterday, I have begun conversations with my counterpart at Minnesota about the prospects of getting that done. I can’t express enough how important our history and tradition is here. Those of you who have been around me enough know that I cherish those things."
Nebraska has played on Black Friday every year since 1990, facing Oklahoma as a member of the Big Eight before expansion to the Big 12 and the institution of division play made Colorado the Huskers' new Black Friday opponent. Since 2011, Nebraska and Iowa have played on that day. Previous schedule releases have listed the last game of the regular season on a Saturday as well, with a later announcement that the games would be held on Friday.
But part of the backlash to the potential change may have stemmed from Eichorst's initial explanation for the switch in a story posted to Huskers.com. The story appears to be no longer available online, but the statement read: "Since moving to a nine-game conference schedule, it makes sense from a student-athlete health, safety and welfare perspective to play on Saturday at the end of the regular season."
Eichorst said that initial statement lacked clarity.
"When I haven’t been clear, and I obviously wasn’t clear on Tuesday with a comment or few I made, I will let you know that I do make mistakes and I’m not perfect. Over the course of the last 48 hours I’ve heard from a lot of constituents, I’ve had communication with the chancellor’s office and the president’s office about our great history and tradition of playing games the Friday after Thanksgiving."
Whether the Huskers' tradition carries on beyond the last scheduled game in 2019 will be the result of a few different factors, but Eichorst described his initial talks with Minnesota Athletic Director Mark Coyle as positive.
"It would be a new situation for them and something they would need to think through, but stay tuned," Eichorst said.
As for the person most directly affected, head coach Mike Riley said he is willing to adjust to whatever schedule the Huskers end up with in 2020 and 2021.
"I’ve coached in the Canadian league with three days rest," he said. "This is not new to me. We know how to do this."
Riley added that short weeks are almost never going to be the preference of a football coach, however.
"Nobody in coaching from junior high to the NFL is going to say, ‘Yeah, give me a short week this week,'" he said. "Nobody’s going to say that. But we’ll be ready and we’ll be fine. It’s not that big of a deal."
It felt like a big deal in Nebraska for a few days. Perhaps a couple of key conversations and feedback from Husker fans changed that.
Eichorst noted that he was listening.
"What hopefully I bring to the table is someone who is willing to listen and do the right thing," he said. "I think that’s where we are today."